The number of men being tested for bowel cancer is at its highest level in Scotland.

Statistics for the first full year of the new home test’s use show 61.6 per cent returned the samples between November 2017 to October 2018, compared to 52.3 per cent using the old method in the same period the year before.

Scotland became the first part of the UK to introduce a simpler home screening test for the cancer in 2017.

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Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “It is particularly encouraging to see an increase in participation from groups who tend to have lower uptake, including men and those who live in more deprived communities.

“We know that the earlier a cancer is detected, the greater the chances of successful treatment and often cure.”

“Screening remains the best way to find bowel cancer early and help reduce health inequalities in cancer outcomes.”

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Bowel cancer is Scotland’s second biggest cancer killer, resulting in more than 1,600 deaths per year.

There has also been an increase in testing by those in the most deprived areas - up from 41.7 per cent to 51.7 per cent - however, that remains below the 72.5 per cent return rate from those in affluent areas

Uptake among those who had never participated before has also risen from 7.8 per cent to 18.9 per cent.

The areas with the highest uptake were the Borders, Orkney and Shetland, while Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and Ayrshire were still significantly below NHS Scotland’s 60 per cent target.

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Age Scotland has welcomed the rise in returns but holds concerns about the change in rates depending upon wealth.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of the charity, said: “It’s great news that more people are taking this life-saving test, with simpler home tests making a big difference.

“But we need to do more to raise awareness and encourage everyone aged 50 to 74 to take part, especially men living in deprived areas.”

“Bowel cancer is the second biggest killer in Scotland and our risk increases with age.

“But too many older people are too embarrassed to take the test or speak to their doctor if they have concerns.

“I’d urge everyone aged 50 and over to overcome their unease and get screened, and encourage family members to do the same.”